A Lens a Day Keeps Gaining Away
BY JASON J. NICHOLS, OD, MPH, PHD, FAAO
Each year, I like to reflect upon issues and trends in the contact lens marketplace that are presented in our January issue’s Annual Report. In the February 2014 Editor’s Perspective, I focused on the report’s data on multifocal fits for presbyopia, highlighting the perhaps disappointing frequency of multifocal contact lens use given the size of the presbyopia market. This year, I’d like to highlight data that continues to show an upward trend: daily disposable lens usage in the North American market.
Daily disposables have been available since the mid-1990s, and many global markets quickly adopted their use in a significant number of patients. Yet, for some reason, the North American market lagged behind in daily disposable uptake. The reason most frequently cited to me for this discrepancy has been “cost.” Yet, practitioners around the globe have been quick to remind me that costs are no different for their patients. In fact, there was a fascinating scientific analysis by Efron and colleagues of daily disposable usage compared to the average individual wealth in 40 different countries. Interestingly, the United States had amongst the wealthiest of individuals in society, yet ranked among the bottom of countries for daily disposable lens use.
All that said, 2014 marked the third year in a row in which we saw substantial (at least 3%) growth in the daily disposable category in the United States. Data from Contact Lens Spectrum’s market research this past year shows this category being used in 23% of soft lens patients (compared to 30% for weekly/two-week, 45% for monthly, and 2% for three-plus months). Data we published from GfK Retail and Technology and ABB Optical Group show U.S. daily disposable usage among soft lens patients of 26% and 31%, respectively. Keep in mind, we reported that the daily disposable category was used in only about 4% to 5% of all contact lens patients in 2003.
While the daily disposable modality is not best for every patient, we think that these trends continue to show a changing dynamic in what was otherwise a stagnant market in this category for many years. Stay tuned for more insights as we go forward through 2015.